Oakland Athletics – MLB Trade Rumors 2021-04-17T17:40:42Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Steve Adams <![CDATA[2020 Rule 5 Draft Update]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=435221 2021-04-16T03:55:07Z 2021-04-16T03:55:06Z An abnormal number of picks from the 2020 Rule 5 Draft survived Spring Training and made the Opening Day rosters with their new clubs. The Orioles and Marlins both broke camp with a pair of Rule 5 picks on the active roster, while the Pirates opened the season with one Rule 5 pick on the roster and one on the injured list. Most clubs that are carrying a Rule 5 pick, unsurprisingly, have little in the way of postseason aspirations. There are a few October hopefuls among those still clinging to Rule 5 picks, however, and it’ll take some uncharacteristically strong Rule 5 showings for those players to survive the season.

We’ll take a look at how the surviving Rule 5 draftees are faring periodically throughout the year. Here’s the first glance…

Currently in the Majors

  • Brett de Geus, RHP, Rangers (via Dodgers): Injuries throughout the Rangers’ bullpen might have helped the 23-year-old de Geus crack the Opening Day roster in Texas. He’s out to a shaky start, having walked three batters and hit another three against just two strikeouts through his first 5 2/3 innings. On the plus side, 13 of the 15 balls put into play against him have been grounders.
  • Akil Baddoo, OF, Tigers (via Twins): Baddoo is one of the best stories (maybe the best) of the young 2021 season. The 22-year-old homered on his first swing in the big leagues as his family rejoiced in the stands, and in less than two weeks’ time he’s added a grand slam, a walk-off single (against his former organization) a 450-foot dinger off Zack Greinke and a fourth homer. Baddoo has a ludicrous 1.342 OPS through his first 29 plate appearances in the Majors, and while he obviously won’t sustain that, he’s forcing a legitimate audition in the Detroit outfield. Baddoo missed nearly all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and didn’t play in 2020. Despite that layoff and the fact that he’d never played above A-ball, the Tigers called his name in December. It may have seemed like a stretch at the time, but it doesn’t look that way now.
  • Garrett Whitlock, RHP, Red Sox (via Yankees): The Sox would surely love for Whitlock to stick, having plucked him from their archrivals in New York. So far, so good. Better than good, in fact. Through 6 1/3 scoreless innings, Whitlock has yielded three hits and punched out nine batters without issuing a walk. He’s sitting 95.6 mph with his heater and has posted a hefty 16.9 percent swinging-strike rate. Whitlock also had Tommy John surgery in 2019, so even though he’s previously been a starter, it makes sense to monitor his workload ease him into the mix as the Sox hope to get through the year with him in the ’pen.
  • Tyler Wells, RHP, Orioles (via Twins): Wells has allowed a pair of homers and surrendered three total runs on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 frames. The O’s aren’t trying to win in 2021, but their bullpen also has four arms that can’t be optioned (Cesar Valdez, Shawn Armstrong, Adam Plutko, Wade LeBlanc). Keeping both Wells and Mac Sceroler (currently on the IL) brings them  to six and will hamper their flexibility.
  • Zach Pop and Paul Campbell, RHPs, Marlins (via Orioles and Rays): Pop was technically the D-backs’ pick in the Rule 5, but Arizona immediately flipped him to the Marlins for a PTBNL. The 24-year-old didn’t allow an earned run in five spring frames but as I was finishing this post, he served up a three-run homer, bringing his season line to seven runs on three hits, three walks and two hit batters in 3 1/3 innings. Campbell has struggled to a similar extent. He’s surrendered five runs (three earned) and given up four hits and three walks in just 2 2/3 innings. With the Marlins out of tank mode, it’ll be tough to carry both all year.
  • Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Rockies (via Dodgers): Sheffield was the No. 36 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, but control issues prevented him from being protected on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen gives Sheffield three plus pitches in his scouting report (fastball, curveball, changeup) but also pegs his command at a 30 on the 20-80 scale. Sheffield has walked or plunked 15 percent of the hitters he faced in the minors. He’s yet to walk anyone 13 batters he’s faced with the Rockies, but he did hit one and has also tossed a pair of wild pitches. That said, he’s also sitting 95.5 mph with his heater and is unscored upon in 3 2/3 frames.
  • Luis Oviedo, RHP, Pirates (via Indians): Oviedo was the Mets’ pick at No. 10, but they had a deal worked out to flip him to the Pirates in exchange for cash. Oviedo has been hammered for six runs on six hits (two homers) and two walks with five strikeouts through 4 2/3 innings so far. Even pitching for a tanking club, Oviedo will need to show some improvement in order to stick on the roster all season.
  • Will Vest, RHP, Mariners (via Tigers): The Mariners kept last year’s Rule 5 pick Yohan Ramirez for the whole season, but it’ll be tougher to do with a full schedule in 2021. The Mariners’ young core is also beginning to rise to the big leagues, and Vest will need to fend off some intriguing young arms. He’s done a decent job so far, allowing a pair of runs (one unearned) on five hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
  • Trevor Stephan, RHP, Indians (via Yankees): Stephan whiffed 16 of 44 hitters this spring to earn a spot on the Indians’ Opening Day roster, but he’s allowed four runs in his first four MLB frames. The 25-year-old has surrendered five hits (including a homer), walked a pair and hit a batter so far while facing a total of 21 hitters.
  • Ka’ai Tom, OF, Athletics (via Indians): Tom, 26, raked at a .310/.412/.552 pace with a homer, two doubles and a triple in 34 spring plate appearances. After that strong audition, however, he’s just 1-for-16 with six strikeouts through his first 16 trips to the plate with the A’s.

On the Major League injured list

  • Jose Soriano, RHP, Pirates (via Angels): It wasn’t a surprise to see Soriano open the year on the injured list. He’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in Feb. 2020 and didn’t pitch in a game with the Pirates this spring. He’ll be sidelined for at least the first two months, as the Bucs put him on the 60-day IL to open a 40-man roster spot when they signed Tyler Anderson. Soriano hasn’t pitched above A-ball, but the Pirates aren’t exactly a win-now club, so they can afford to stash him as a seldom-used bullpen piece in order to secure his rights beyond the 2021 season.
  • Mac Sceroler, RHP, Orioles (via Reds): Sceroler fanned six hitters in 3 2/3 innings early in the season but also yielded three runs on five hits (two homers), three walks and a hit batter. The Orioles recently placed him on the 10-day injured list due to tendinitis in his right shoulder, although it’s not expected to be too lengthy an absence.
  • Dedniel Nunez, RHP, Giants (via Mets): Nunez was hit hard in the Cactus League, surrendering four runs in 3 1/3 innings. He’ll now miss the entire 2021 season after sustaining a UCL tear that required Tommy John surgery this spring. Nunez will spend the season on San Francisco’s 60-day injured list and receive a year of MLB service, but he’ll still be subject to Rule 5 restrictions in 2022 once he’s healthy. He’ll need to spend at least 90 days on the MLB roster before he can be sent to the minors; if he doesn’t last that long, he’ll have to pass through waivers and, if he clears, be offered back to the Mets.

Returned to their original club

  • Jose Alberto Rivera, RHP, Angels (via Astros): The Angels didn’t take much of a look at Rivera, returning him to Houston on March 24 after just one inning of official work in Cactus League play.
  • Kyle Holder, SS, Reds (via Yankees): The Reds weren’t sure who their shortstop was going to be heading into Spring Training, but they ultimately settled on moving Eugenio Suarez back to that spot, sliding Mike Moustakas back to third base and giving prospect Jonathan India the nod at second base. A strong spring from Holder might have at least given him a bench spot behind that trio, but he hit just .219/.359/.250 in 39 plate appearances. The Reds returned him to the Yankees on March 30.
  • Gray Fenter, RHP, Cubs (via Orioles): The Cubs returned Fenter to the Orioles on March 12 after just one spring appearance. He hasn’t pitched above A-ball yet.
  • Dany Jimenez, RHP, Athletics (via Blue Jays): The 27-year-old Jimenez was a Rule 5 pick in consecutive offseasons — once by each Bay Area club. The A’s returned him to the Jays on March 15, however, after he yielded four runs (two earned) in three innings of work this spring.
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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Athletics Notes: Pinder, Rosenthal, Shortstop]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=435216 2021-04-14T14:24:05Z 2021-04-14T14:24:05Z The A’s placed versatile Chad Pinder on the 10-day injured list with a knee sprain last week, but manager Bob Melvin indicated this week that Pinder should expected to miss a fair bit longer. Speaking with Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link, with audio), Melvin called Pinder’s injury “worse than we originally anticipated” and added that he does “not expect him back anytime soon.” There’s no specific timeline on the injury or an indication as to the severity of the sprain (or any additional damage). Pinder was out to a 3-for-10 start to the season, including a homer, and has posted a .245/.304/.435 batting line in 1083 plate appearances since establishing himself as a utility option with the A’s back in 2017.

More notes out of Oakland…

  • In a recent appearance on the A’s Cast podcast, general manager David Forst indicated that Trevor Rosenthal was throwing well and feeling good early in camp before the symptoms that prompted his thoracic outlet surgery caught everyone off guard. “He threw the ball well at the beginning of camp, and it seemed like these symptoms popped up out of nowhere,” said Forst. “There’s certainly hope for [a return] sometime in August. Everyone’s protocol is a little different, and timeline’s different based on how the surgery goes.” Oakland inked Rosenthal to a surprising $11MM guarantee late in the offseason, so they’ll obviously be hoping to salvage some kind of return on that investment. For the time being, the A’s aren’t going to define their bullpen roles, it seems. Righty Lou Trivino has notched the club’s first and only save of the season thus far.
  • The A’s aren’t exactly flush with depth options at shortstop should Elvis Andrus sustain any sort of injury, as Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle notes in his latest mailbag column. Jed Lowrie or Matt Chapman could slide over to short in a pinch, should something happen mid-game, and Kawahara points out that both Vimael Machin and veteran Pete Kozma are on the A’s early taxi squad. Machin is more of a second baseman/third baseman, but he played 44 innings at short last year and has 600-plus innings there in the minors. Kozma, meanwhile, is traveling with the club on the taxi squad despite not being on the 40-man roster. The 33-year-old obviously doesn’t have a strong track record at the plate, but he’s a steady defender who enjoyed a nice showing with Oakland in Spring Training. The lack of immediate depth at shortstop is another manner in which the A’s are feeling Pinder’s absence; he’s logged 224 innings there over the past few seasons and would make a logical replacement option if Andrus were to sustain an in-game injury.
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TC Zencka <![CDATA[A’s Place A.J. Puk On 10-Day Injured List, Move Trevor Rosenthal To 60-Day IL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=432018 2021-04-10T17:45:20Z 2021-04-10T17:45:03Z TODAY: “Ten days is not going to work as far as him being back,” manager Bob Melvin said about Puk’s status.  Melvin told Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle and other reporters that Puk has yet to begin throwing.

APRIL 8: The Athletics have placed A.J. Puk on the 10-day injured list with strained left biceps, the team announced. In corresponding moves, Trevor Rosenthal was moved to the 60-day injured list and Deolis Guerra has been selected from the alternate site.

There’s not much to say about Puk landing back on the injured list after just one appearance. The towering southpaw has struggled to stay healthy. He missed all of the shortened 2020 season because of a shoulder strain. Hopefully, this stint on the IL will be a short one for the 25-year-old, who remains one of the most promising arms in the A’s organization and a potential difference-maker for the 2021 season.

The Rosenthal news is no less dispiriting, though given the recent diagnosis, it was to be expected. Rosenthal is likely to need thoracic outlet surgery, which carries a recovery time of at least 12 weeks. The A’s signed Rosenthal to a one-year, $11MM deal this winter to serve as the replacement for departed-closer Liam Hendriks.

Guerra, 31, is a right-hander out of Venezuela. He made nine appearances for the Phillies last year while previously suiting up for the Brewers, Angels, and Pirates. Since 2015 he has made 83 total appearances spanning 103 innings with a 4.81 ERA/4.78 FIP. It has been a couple of years since his best showing with the Angels from 2016-17, however.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Trevor Rosenthal Undergoes Thoracic Outlet Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=430882 2021-04-08T21:38:58Z 2021-04-08T21:36:47Z APRIL 8: Rosenthal underwent thoracic outlet surgery Thursday, Martin Gallegos of MLB.com tweets. He’ll be re-evaluated in eight weeks.

APRIL 7: After opening the season on the injured list due to a shoulder problem, Athletics closer Trevor Rosenthal could now require thoracic outlet surgery to address the injury, manager Bob Melvin announced to reporters Wednesday (Twitter link via Shayna Rubin of the San Jose Mercury News). It’s a sudden and troubling development for a struggling A’s club. The procedure would come with “at least” a 12-week recovery time, Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The right-hander is weighing his options and is expected to make a decision in the near future.

Rosenthal, 30, spent much of the offseason seeking a lucrative multi-year deal after turning in an absolutely dominant performance between the Royals and the Padres last season. However, when he wasn’t able to find a long-term deal to his liking, the hard-throwing righty opted for a one-year deal at a strong $11MM rate to serve as the closer at the pitcher-friendly O.Co Coliseum.

It was a surprise investment for an A’s club that spent most of the winter idling on the sidelines as teams throughout the league sifted through the free-agent market. Only after the A’s were able to shed a notable portion of Khris Davis’ contract did they enter the free-agent waters, and even then, their initial expenditures were modest, one-year commitments to Yusmeiro Petit, Sergio Romo and Mitch Moreland. Rosenthal was an entirely different type of spend, and it’s now an open question whether they’ll get any real return on what was a major splash by their standards.

Thoracic outlet syndrome is the latest in a series of setbacks for Rosenthal, who broke into the league as one of the game’s most dominant young relievers with the Cardinals but has since struggled to stay healthy. Tommy John surgery wiped out Rosenthal’s entire 2018 season, and when he returned with the Nationals in 2019, he developed a sudden case of the yips. Rosenthal walked 26 of the 85 batters he faced between Washington and Detroit that season. He also hit another four batters and snapped off nine wild pitches in just 15 1/3 innings. He tried to find himself with the Yankees’ Triple-A club but faced just five hitters with Scranton, issuing three walks, hitting a fourth batter and throwing another wild pitch.

Those immense struggles made Rosenthal’s comeback in 2020 all the more remarkable. Not only did he rediscover some big league success, he emerged as one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball. Through 23 2/3 innings between Kansas City and San Diego, Rosenthal notched a 1.90 ERA with an overpowering 41.8 percent strikeout rate, a strong 8.8 percent walk rate and a fastball that averaged 98.1 mph. It was vintage Rosenthal.

From here, the future is sadly muddied once again. The track record for pitchers coming back from thoracic outlet surgery is generally poor, and few pitchers have undergone both Tommy John surgery and a TOS procedure in such close proximity. Matt Harvey is the most prominent example of a pitcher to undergo both operations in a short time, missing the 2014 season due to Tommy John and then undergoing TOS midway through the 2016 campaign. Obviously, he’s been unable to rediscover the dominant form he displayed early in his career.

There are certainly success stories among pitchers who’ve had surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. Recently retired righty and current Rangers general manager Chris Young credited the procedure with saving his career, and Rosenthal’s former Cardinals teammate, Jaime Garcia, enjoyed a productive three-year stretch upon returning from his own TOS operation.

For the Athletics, the new development on Rosenthal means they’ll be extra reliant on veterans like Romo, Petit and Jake Diekman in the late innings. Right-handers Lou Trivino and J.B. Wendelken have had their share of success in the big leagues as well; Wendelken in particular has been quietly dominant dating back to 2018. The A’s also have a former top 10 overall pick, left-hander A.J. Puk, as an intriguing option in the ’pen this year as he looks to put his own injury woes in the rearview mirror.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Giants Claim Skye Bolt, Designate Ashton Goudeau]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=427314 2021-04-06T00:17:38Z 2021-04-06T00:06:42Z The Giants have claimed outfielder Skye Bolt via waivers from the Athletics and designated right-hander Ashton Goudeau for assignment, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area.

The 27-year-old Bolt only spent a few days in limbo, as the Athletics designated him April 1. He joined the team as a fourth-round pick in 2015 and later ranked as one of Baseball America’s top 20 Athletics prospects on multiple occasions, but Bolt hasn’t gotten much major league experience yet. In 2019, the only season in which he made it to the bigs, Bolt collected one hit in 11 plate appearances. Bolt has been much more successful in Triple-A, where he has batted .269/.350/.459 over 347 trips to the plate.

Goudeau had a short stay on the 40-man roster of San Francisco, which claimed him from the Orioles on March 18. The 28-year-old previously spent time with the Pirates in the offseason, and he was in the Colorado organization before that. He made his MLB debut last year, but he totaled just 8 1/3 innings of seven-run ball. Goudeau did star during his most recent minors action, 2019, when he pitched to a stellar 2.07 ERA with similarly impressive strikeout and walk percentages (30.1 and 4.0, respectively) in 78 1/3 Double-A innings.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[A’s Place Chad Pinder On IL, Recall A.J. Puk]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=427276 2021-04-05T22:50:22Z 2021-04-05T22:50:22Z The Athletics have placed infielder/outfielder Chad Pinder on the 10-day injured list with a left knee sprain, Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News was among those to report. The team recalled southpaw A.J. Puk in a corresponding move.

Pinder suffered the injury during what was a horrible weekend for the Athletics, who are 0-4 after the division-rival Astros swept them and outscored them 35-9. The 29-year-old started three of the team’s first four games in the corner outfield and began 2021 well with three hits (including a home run) in 10 plate appearances. The A’s figure to lean on Stephen Piscotty, Tony Kemp and Ka’ai Tom to help replace Pinder. Ramon Laureano and Mark Canha are also on hand in their outfield, though Laureano hasn’t played since Friday because of a jammed wrist, and he’s not in their lineup Monday against the Dodgers. Manager Bob Melvin said he’s hopeful Laureano will be back Tuesday, per Martin Gallegos of MLB.com.

Puk, 25, will work out of the A’s bullpen. The hyped prospect made an 11 1/3-inning major league debut in 2019, in which he was highly effective, but underwent a Tommy John procedure the year before and didn’t pitch at all last season because of shoulder issues that required surgery in September. The A’s optioned Puk to their alternate site last week, but he’ll now get opportunity to stick on their roster.

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Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[A's Injury Notes: Pinder, Laureano, Murphy]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=426910 2021-04-05T00:36:25Z 2021-04-05T00:36:25Z The Athletics were outscored by a 35-9 margin over the course of a four-game sweep at the hands of the Astros, and some injury concerns only further worsened Oakland’s nightmare of a series.  Chad Pinder will receive an MRI after suffering a left knee sprain while making a jumping catch at the wall in the first inning of today’s game.  Pinder made an awkward landing while completing the play, and though he finished the inning, he was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the frame.

Losing a valuable utilityman like Pinder would be another blow to an A’s lineup that is already missing some key names, though manager Bob Melvin suggested Ramon Laureano could potentially be back in action on Monday.  Laureano “feels a lot better today…I think we’re getting a little bit closer with him,” Melvin told MLB.com’s Martin Gallegos and other reporters.  After jamming his wrist during a slide on Friday, Laureano has missed the Athletics’ last two games.  Sean Murphy was hit in the hand with a pitch during that same Friday game, and Melvin said Murphy will be sidelined for at least one more game since the catcher had some discomfort swinging during Sunday’s batting practice.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Bob Melvin’s Future]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=425567 2021-04-03T00:39:32Z 2021-04-03T00:39:32Z There is a chance that this will be longtime manager Bob Melvin’s last season at the helm of the Athletics. This is the final guaranteed year of Melvin’s contract, which includes a team option for 2022, and he and general manager David Forst have publicly addressed his status this week.

“His option at this point is more a function of what he wants to do rather than what we want,” Forst said Wednesday, per Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s earned that right. So that will be the conversation we have going forward.”

Melvin, however, wants to stay in Oakland. The Bay Area native said Friday (via Kawahara): “I have no desire to go anywhere else. I’m perfectly happy here and my bosses have taken good care of me here. So that’s where I stand on it.”

At this point, it’s hard to imagine the Athletics wanting to cut ties with Melvin, who has held the reins since 2011 and led the small-budget team to a 767-689 regular-season record with six playoff berths. Melvin, previously a skipper with the Mariners and Diamondbacks, has won Manager of the Year honors three times – including with Oakland in 2012 and ’18.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[A’s Select Jed Lowrie, Place Trevor Rosenthal On IL, Designate Skye Bolt]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=424714 2021-04-02T00:21:33Z 2021-04-02T00:20:59Z 7:20pm: Rosenthal is dealing with “fatigue” in his shoulder, according to manager Bob Melvin, who said he’s “not really sure” how much time the reliever will miss (per Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle).

11:10am: The Athletics announced Thursday that they’ve selected the contracts of infielder Jed Lowrie and lefty Reymin Guduan from Triple-A Las Vegas. Oakland also optioned righty Daulton Jeffries and lefty A.J. Puk to the alternate training site, placed righties Mike Fiers (hip inflammation) and Trevor Rosenthal (right shoulder inflammation) on the injured list and designated outfielder Skye Bolt for assignment.

Lowrie, 37 in April, returned for a third go-around with the A’s over the winter when he inked a minor league deal. His two-year stint with the Mets proved to be an abject disaster, as he tallied just eight plate appearances over the life of a two-year, $20MM contract. That Lowrie was injured for the bulk of his tenure in Queens was frustrating enough for Mets fans, but the team’s bizarre and cryptic series of non-updates on the veteran infielder’s knee troubles proved extra perplexing. Eventually, the Mets termed Lowrie’s injury as “PCL laxity” in his left knee, but little additional detail was ever provided.

It appears as though Lowrie is healthy now, however, as he not only made the roster but did so on the heels of a respectable Cactus League showing. The switch-hitter tallied 37 plate appearances over the course of 13 games, hitting .265/.297/.559 with a pair of homers and four doubles. The A’s surely would like to see that OBP tick up a bit, which seems quite likely given Lowrie’s career 9.8 percent walk rate. He should factor prominently into the mix for playing time at second base, where the A’s will be missing Tommy La Stella, who signed across the Bay with the Giants on a three-year deal as a free agent.

The shoulder troubles for Rosenthal, meanwhile, are a concerning development. The righty was slowed by a groin strain late in Spring Training, but a shoulder issue is of greater concern. There’s no indication that the injury is especially serious at the moment, but arm troubles of any kind for a pitcher who has a somewhat recent Tommy John surgery in his history (2018) raise a red flag.

The A’s surprised the baseball world by swooping in and signing Rosenthal to a one-year, $11MM contract late in the offseason after he wasn’t able to find a multi-year deal to his liking. The former Cardinals closer returned to prominence with the Royals and Padres last year in overpowering fashion. Rosenthal was a true juggernaut at the back of both teams’ bullpens during the regular season, posting a combined 1.90 ERA with a 41.8 percent strikeout rate. A similar powerhouse showing in 2021 would surely position him nicely for that lucrative multi-year pact he covets, but he’s off to an inauspicious start.

Bolt, meanwhile, will now be traded or placed on outright waivers within the next week. He has just 11 big league plate appearances under his belt but is capable of playing all three outfield spots and carries a .269/.350/.459 batting line in 347 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. He does have a minor league option remaining.

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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Oakland A’s]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=419935 2021-03-31T00:51:24Z 2021-03-31T00:51:24Z The reigning AL West champs watched their double-play duo, closer, and left fielder depart in free agency over the winter. The A’s, however, are no stranger to the challenges of retooling on the fly. Oakland may have trouble repeating its .600 win percentage from 2020, but that won’t necessarily preclude the team from repeating in the AL West.

Major League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Minor League Signings

Extensions

  • None

Notable Losses

Of all the players set for free agency after the 2020 season, A’s shortstop Marcus Semien was a particularly interesting case. The A’s somewhat surprisingly chose not to extend him a qualifying offer. In doing so, they signaled three things: 1.) They believed Semien might accept the $18.9MM qualifying offer; 2.) They were unwilling to pay him that sum; 3.) They were prepared to enter 2021 with a new shortstop. Ultimately, Semien signed a one-year deal below the QO value to play for the Toronto Blue Jays, and the A’s received nothing in return.

The very same day that Semien’s accord was announced, double-play partner Tommy La Stella signed a three-year deal with the Giants. La Stella’s time in Oakland was brief, but he was critical for the team down the stretch after coming over in a trade with the division-rival Angels. He slashed .289/.369/.423 in 27 regular-season games from the top of manager Bob Melvin’s order. Acquiring that performance came only at the cost of erstwhile top prospect Franklin Barreto. The goal is not to pay for past performance, however, nor for past value, so the A’s said their thank-yous and let La Stella move across the Bay at the reasonable AAV of $6.25MM per season.

At that point in late January, Liam Hendriks had already inked his new deal with the White Sox. Even Robbie Grossman had long since found his new home in Detroit. In Oakland, however, the winter was (again) in danger of being defined by the players lost in free agency. Executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst are as cold-blooded as they come, however. They were no doubt aware that something like, say, not having a middle infield would temporarily leave them in ill-favor with the public, but the end goal was not to have a middle infield in January. The A’s are generally at a disadvantage when it comes to resources, but they had as much time at their disposal as the other 29 teams, and they used it to enact a coherent offseason strategy.

On Feb. 6, the A’s offseason began in earnest. They and another division rival, the Rangers, completed an outside-the-box five-player swap centered on two out-of-favor veterans on hefty contracts. In its most basic form, the trade sent Khris Davis, Jonah Heim, and Dane Acker from the A’s to the Rangers for Elvis Andrus and Aramis Garcia.

For the A’s, this deal enabled them to shift money around. Oakland fell in love with Davis’ light-tower power, but he slumped to an 82 wRC+ over the past two seasons. Davis started only 14 games in the field going back to 2018, so if he doesn’t create value with his bat, he doesn’t create value. And yet, in the second year of a two-year extension signed prior to 2019, Davis would account for almost 20 percent of a payroll that was already without much margin for error. Turning that dead money into two years of a serviceable shortstop may end up as a decent sleight of hand on the A’s part.

Of course, Oakland had to give up more than just Davis. Heim has promise – Fangraphs gives him a 40+ future value score- but he’s also a 25-year-old backup at a position of organizational depth. If Garcia can’t step directly into Heim’s shoes as Sean Murphy’s backup, then Austin Allen can. Allen, though 27 years old, was actually ranked a spot above Heim in Fangraphs’ organizational prospect rankings entering 2020. The A’s are taking on some risk here, as Garcia and Allen profile similarly as bat-first backstops; furthermore, if Murphy goes down for any extended period of time, they might have preferred Heim’s defensive skill set as a long-term stand-in. But if all goes according to plan, Murphy will shoulder the load. In that case, either Garcia or Allen ought to suffice as a backup.

Acker is the true cost of doing business. He’s a durable college arm with a repeatable, clean delivery and a decent chance of making it to the Majors. He’s also a 2020 draft pick who has yet to make his professional debut. The A’s essentially had to tack on a fourth-round pick to make this deal work. All things considered, that’s hardly a backbreaking tax to burden when slashing $9.5MM off the payroll.

The crux of this deal comes down to whether or not you believe in Andrus as a two-year stopgap. His defensive metrics are all over the place, though it won’t hurt to play alongside Matt Chapman. Offensively, Andrus was a 76 wRC+ hitter in both 2018 and 2019. He admits to being slow to adapt to modern analytics at the plate. That makes him an interesting fit in Oakland. If he’s ready to change his approach, maybe the A’s feel they can unlock something for him, though the Coliseum is notoriously tough on right-handed hitters. With a lifetime .098 career ISO and groundball-heavy approach at the plate, he may have trouble hitting any of these new baseballs out of that yard.

For what it’s worth, ZiPS projects Andrus to re-spawn as a 1.2 fWAR player, which is roughly his production in each of 2018 and 2019. It’s probably safest to assume he can be a 1-2 WAR player, which makes his dollar count about right. Whether or not he can sufficiently replace Semien depends on which version of Semien you’re imagining. If it’s the 2019 version that notched 8.9 bWAR/7.6 fWAR, you can forget about it. But if you’re thinking about the 2020 guy who put up numbers that extrapolate over a full season to 1.35 bWAR/3.24 fWAR, well, now we’re getting somewhere. Andrus is not the ideal shortstop, but at $7.25MM per season for two years, he’s a better use of the money than Davis would have been. That’s the calculus that makes this deal work – if it works.

With the money saved, Beane and Forst went on a mini spending spree of their own. They brought back Mike Fiers just hours after the Andrus trade. They essentially replaced Joakim Soria with Sergio Romo on Valentine’s Day, re-signed Yusmeiro Petit five days after that, and capped their bullpen revamp with a big-ish fish in Trevor Rosenthal, whom they signed to a much-deferred one-year, $11MM pact.

Romo provides insurance for the bullpen, as does Fiers for the rotation. Neither hurler is a place to be a bell-cow arm, but they are trustworthy enough to hold the line. On the whole, the A’s free agent class would have been a real get after 2013. Present day, it’s not as splashy as, say, the White Sox, who signed Hendriks, but it could nonetheless be impactful. Rosenthal seemed to put himself back together in 2020 with 11 saves and a 1.90 ERA/2.22 FIP across 23 2/3 innings. He stuff is electric, and his walk rate returned to a palatable 8.8 percent. His 2019 wildness is looking less like decline and more like re-calibration after Tommy John surgery.

Of course, where in most cases we’re willing to throw out 2020’s numbers because of the pandemic, it’s a little convenient to take Rosenthal’s performance as proof of concept. Admittedly, then, there’s risk. Still, Rosenthal has 92 more career saves than Hendriks, he’s less prone to giving up home runs (6.4 percent HR/FB for Rosenthal to 10.2 percent HR/FB for Hendriks), and Rosenthal has a lower career ERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. Hendriks outdoes Rosenthal in terms of control, and he does have two insane seasons out of the last two compared to one for Rosenthal.

Put aside all the noise of career numbers and Rosenthal’s messy 2019, and give in to last season’s numbers as the real McCoy just for a second. Rosenthal put up 1.1 bWAR to Hendriks’ 1.3 bWAR. Rosenthal had a 35.2 percent CSW (called strike plus whiff rate) compared to 31.0 percent for Hendriks. Rosenthal finished in the 99th percentile for fastball velocity, xERA, xBA, strikeout rate, and xwOBA. You barely even have to squint to consider Rosenthal a lateral move at worst (without the long-term financial commitment).

The A’s largely stuck with their internal options to replace La Stella at the keystone. Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder splitting time in a straight platoon is one potential eventuality. To open the season, however, it’s looking like old friend Jed Lowrie will share the middle infield with Andrus in his third tour of duty with the A’s.

The only Major League contract they gave out to a hitter this winter went to Mitch Moreland. The 35-year-old has only once produced more than 1.0 fWAR in a season, which is fairly stunning given that he’s now been in the bigs for 11 years. But he’s trending up over the last three seasons, especially in his specialty department (vs. RHP): 106 to 125 to 146 wRC+ from 2018 to 2020. He has enough glove to insure Matt Olsen at first, but given Olsen’s own glovework, Moreland’s only real job is to rake. In 2020, that’s exactly what Moreland did: .265/.342/.551, 135 wRC+, 10 home runs, a solid 21.1 percent strikeout rate, 9.9 percent walk rate, and .287 ISO.

Cot’s contracts pegs the A’s payroll to be $83.5MM by raw dollars, $100MM on the dot as far as the luxry tax is concerned. They’ll pay out even less than that because Rosenthal will receive just $3MM in 2021. Regardless, the A’s payroll is closer to zero than it is to the first tax threshold of $210MM. They’re about $11MM under their full-scale payroll from 2020, and if they remain at this current level, it’ll be their lowest payroll since 2018. They have occasionally taken on in-season money in the $10MM range, but they’re more likely to add $1MM-3MM, or even further diminish the payroll should things go sour. Oakland excels at identifying its weaknesses and finding reinforcements throughout the season in this way. Jake Lamb, Mike Minor and La Stella were the guys last year, and the A’s will probably look at that class of player again.

To accomplish that slimming of the payroll, Beane and Forst helped themselves with some low-cost additions to fill out the roster. Ka’ai Tom was a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Indians, and he’ll enter the season as their fourth outfielder. Pinder and Kemp are also capable of defending the grass, but Tom does provide left-handed balance to the A’s trio of right-handed starters: Ramon Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, and Mark Canha.

Skeptics might wonder why Tom would be left unprotected by a Cleveland organization that’s perpetually in desperate need of outfielders, and that’s a fair question. He’s undersized at 5’9″, almost 27, and only once ranked in Baseball America’s top 40 Indians’ prospects (No. 31 in 2016). His physical skills in terms of speed and power aren’t immense, but he’s succeeded at every level thus far, including a .298/.370/.564 line (132 wRC+) in 211 plate appearances at Triple-A in 2019.

If Tom is the “overlooked” brand of undervalued asset, former Ray and Dodger Adam Kolarek qualifies as the “specialist.” The southpaw is cost-efficient with four years of control remaining, he limits free passes (6.0 percent walk rate for his career), he gets the ball on the ground at a 62.7 percent clip, and he’s death to lefties, who hit just .176/.217/.248 off him.

The A’s biggest need this offseason might have been health, particularly in the rotation. Oakland’s starting staff can be the backbone of a contender. If Chris Bassitt and Fiers can excel in the Coliseum, so should Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Frankie Montas, and Sean Manaea. But health has been an issue, and the A’s will continue to manage the workloads of their young arms as they try to readjust to the slog of a 162-game season.

If you’re of the camp that thinks the A’s took a step back during the winter, it’s not hard to understand why. But the Astros took a step back too, the Angels face many of the same roster questions as usual, and the Mariners and Rangers have a ways to go before closing the gap. There’s reason to hope for a fourth consecutive playoff appearance out of Oakland. If it happens, it will be driven by Melvin’s ability to mix and match and get the most out of an imperfect roster. A return to health for Chapman and breakout seasons on the mound from Luzardo, Montas, and/or Puk wouldn’t hurt either. But those aren’t things you can secure in the offseason.

How would you grade the A’s offseason? (Link to poll for Trade Rumors iOS/Android app users)

 

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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 3/28/21]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=420177 2021-03-29T02:43:29Z 2021-03-29T02:35:45Z The latest minor moves around the league…

Latest

  • The A’s announced a pair of roster moves, optioning Vimael Machin and Seth Brown to Triple-A. That means Rule 5 selection Ka’ai Tom is likely to make the roster as a reserve outfielder, notes Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. Tom didn’t get a full spring because of an oblique injury, but he apparently showed enough for the A’s to keep him on the active roster. He’ll need to stay there for the entire season or else be returned to the Indians. Machin spent some of last season standing in for Matt Chapman at third before Jake Lamb arrived, but a relatively punchless .206/.296/.238 across 71 plate appearances likely returns the difficult-to-strikeout left-handed hitter to an emergency fill-in role. Brown, 28, contributed 0.7 fWAR in a highly-productive 26-game sample in 2019, but he logged only five plate appearances across seven games in 2020.

Earlier Updates

  • The Rangers released Nick Vincent yesterday, but today they announced that he will stay with the organization on a minor league contract. We’ll see this pattern with a number of players between now and opening day. The 34-year-old Vincent has seen action in every season going back to 2012 when he debuted with the Padres. He has appeared in 405 games over his nine-year career with exactly matching 3.38 ERA/FIP marks while suiting up for the Pads, Mariners, Giants, Phillies, and Marlins.
  • 16-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Mario Piño has agreed to sign with the Cardinals for $767K, per ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel (Twitter links). Pino had multiple offers both for this signing period and next, but he ultimately has decided to join the Cardinals’ 2021-22 class of international signees. The White Sox, A’s, and Red Sox were among the teams who were said to be interested in Pino.
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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Pitcher Notes: Dodgers, Gray, E-Rod, Yankees, Fiers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=418975 2021-03-27T19:54:59Z 2021-03-27T19:53:02Z The Dodgers are still deciding among fifth starter options, manager Dave Roberts informed Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times and other reporters Friday. Southpaw David Price is competing against righties Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, who impressed as rookies during the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series-winning campaign. As a five-time All-Star and a former AL Cy Young winner, Price certainly carries the best track record of the three – not to mention the highest salary – but he didn’t pitch at all last season after opting out over COVID-19 concerns. Any of those three would join Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías in what will be a loaded season-opening starting five.

The latest on a few more pitchers around the game:

  • Reds righty Sonny Gray, who has been dealing with a back problem for a couple of weeks, came out of a sim game unscathed Friday, per Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. After throwing two innings and 30 pitches, Gray said, “I felt good. It was definitely a step in the right direction.” Gray will start the season on the injured list, but he doesn’t expect to miss much time. That’s uplifting news for a Reds starting staff that lost the aforementioned Bauer during the offseason.
  • Eduardo Rodríguez was recently set back by a dead arm but seemed to make some progress this morning. The Red Sox left-hander came out of a bullpen session feeling good about his chances of soon returning to game action, although a season-opening injured list stint remains a possibility (via Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com and Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe). Manager Alex Cora says the club will evaluate how Rodríguez feels tomorrow before making any decisions about his recovery timeline.
  • The Yankees have optioned right-hander Deivi García to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, according to a team announcement. The move suggests Domingo Germán will enter the season as the No. 5 in the Yankees’ rotation behind Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery, though odds are that García will make his share of starts this season. The 21-year-old, a former top 100 prospect, made his debut last season with a 4.98 ERA/4.21 SIERA with a 22.6 percent strikeout rate against a stingy 4.1 percent walk rate in 34 1/3 innings.
  • Athletics righty Mike Fiers will begin the season on the injured list, manager Bob Melvin announced to Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle and other reporters. Fiers has been dealing with left hip inflammation since midway through the month and hasn’t faced live hitters during his recovery. His injury could open the door for any of Daulton Jefferies, Cole Irvin or A.J. Puk to at least temporarily join the A’s rotation. Fiers tied for the A’s lead in starts (11) and finished second in innings (59) last season, but he struggled to a 4.58 ERA/5.41 SIERA and managed a personal-worst 14.4 percent K rate.
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Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Jed Lowrie To Make Athletics’ Opening Day Roster]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=419326 2021-03-27T17:20:55Z 2021-03-27T17:20:55Z The A’s are going to add Jed Lowrie to the Opening Day roster, manager Bob Melvin announced to reporters (including Martín Gallegos of MLB.com and Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle). Oakland still needs to formally select Lowrie’s contract but has a vacant 40-man roster spot to do so.

Interestingly, the A’s plan to deploy Lowrie as the primary second baseman, Melvin said. Lowrie obviously had quite a bit of success in that role in 2018, when he hit .267/.353/.448 and earned an All-Star selection. However, the 36-year-old (37 in April) hasn’t played a single inning on defense since then on account of knee injuries.

Lowrie’s 2019-20 stint with the Mets was a disaster, as those health woes limited him to just eight total plate appearances (none last season). He returned to the A’s on a minor-league deal over the offseason. Lowrie does have a long track record of being a productive regular, which can’t be said of either Tony Kemp or Chad Pinder. The A’s will certainly keep tabs on his workload, but Lowrie looks to once again be Oakland’s go-to option at the keystone.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Gio Gonzalez Announces Retirement]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=418041 2021-03-25T19:42:52Z 2021-03-25T19:15:34Z Veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez took to Instagram this afternoon to announce his retirement from baseball after a 13-year Major League career. The 35-year-old Hialeah, Fla. native was in camp with the Marlins on a minor league deal and called simply donning the jersey of his hometown club one of his “biggest dreams.” However, Gonzalez also added that his “body wasn’t keeping up with [his] mind.” The lefty offered a heartfelt thanks to the Athletics, Nationals, Brewers, White Sox, Yankees and Marlins organizations.

Gio Gonzalez | Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

“My heart and mind are finally at peace with my decision,” Gonzalez wrote at the conclusion of his post. “Here’s one last tip of the cap! I’m coming home to my wonderful family. I love u!”

Gonzalez was the No. 38 overall draft pick by the White Sox back in 2004 and had, to say the least, an unconventional career arc with the team. Chicago traded him to the Phillies in Dec. 2005 as part of the Jim Thome blockbuster, only to reacquire him a year later alongside Gavin Floyd in the trade that sent Freddy Garcia to Philadelphia. Gonzalez was close to big league ready at that point and looked as though he could make his debut with the team that originally drafted him … until the White Sox again traded him away — this time to the Athletics as part of the return for Nick Swisher.

Between his draft status, his inclusion in trades for three high-profile big leaguers and his annual placement on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect list from 2006-09, it was clear that Gonzalez was highly regarded within the industry. It took him a bit to deliver on that talent, but he did so in a big way with a breakout showing in 2010, when he tossed 200 2/3 innings of 3.23 ERA ball and solidified himself as part of the Athletics’ rotation.

That marked the first of six consecutive seasons in which the durable Gonzalez would make at least 27 starts and pitch to a sub-4.00 ERA. Oakland, as is often the case, traded him when he was on the cusp of arbitration eligibility, shipping him to the Nationals in return for a prospect package of four future big leaguers: A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock.

Gonzalez was nothing short of excellent in Washington, finishing third in National League Cy Young voting in his first season as a Nat. He inked a five-year, $42MM contract extension with the Nats in Jan. 2012 and would go on to spend the next seven seasons in D.C. under the terms of that deal (which contained a pair of club options). Gonzalez’s first season with the Nationals was his best, but he finished sixth in NL Cy Young voting in 2017 — his final full year with the club. In parts of seven years there overall, Gonzalez racked up 1263 1/3 innings of 3.62 ERA ball and helped the Nats to four postseason berths.

With the Nats out of playoff contention in 2018, they traded Gonzalez to the Brewers for a pair of prospects. Gonzalez was brilliant in five starts down the stretch with Milwaukee, helping pitch the Brewers into the postseason. He re-signed with the Brewers in April 2019 after being granted his release from a minor league deal with the Yankees organization and again pitched quite well, tossing 87 1/3 frames of 3.50 ERA ball.

In the 2019-20 offseason, Gonzalez had a full-circle moment when he signed a one-year contract to return to the White Sox. He finally took the mound with his original organization on July 26 last summer. Gonzalez was tagged for six runs in his first appearance, but he bounced back with 28 innings of 3.54 ERA ball for the South Siders the rest of the way.

Gonzalez will walk away from baseball as a two-time All-Star who twice finished sixth or better in his league’s Cy Young voting. Long one of the game’s more underrated starters, his career body of work stands as a testament to his consistency: in 1933 innings, Gonzalez went 131-101 a 3.70 ERA and 1860 strikeouts. He earned more than $73MM in a career valued by Baseball-Reference at 30.1 wins above replacement and valued by FanGraphs at 32.1 WAR. Gonzalez never won a ring but appeared in the postseason five different times, made a pair of All-Star Games and was always good for an entertaining interview. It was a strong career by any measure, and Gonzalez will head into retirement having left his mark on several fanbases and countless teammates and coaches around the sport.

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Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Athletics Option Austin Allen]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=417686 2021-03-25T03:53:01Z 2021-03-25T03:50:43Z
  • The Athletics optioned catcher Austin Allen this afternoon, Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle was among those to note. That sets up Aramís García to claim the backup job behind Sean Murphy to open the season. García was acquired from the Rangers this offseason as part of the Elvis Andrus trade. The 28-year-old has a .229/.270/.419 slash line over 111 MLB plate appearances.
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